I recently joined a friend of mine at a housewarming party. My friend is a young professional and her friends are as well. However, my friend has a very different past than most of her friends. She was raised by a single-mother and their class status growing up is different than the one she gets to enjoy today. Class mobility is embedded into her bones, and our friendship is an easy one because we understand what it is like to come from nothing.
I found myself entering this obviously successful young women’s new apartment, and I was immediately floored. Like most people, I tend to surround myself with people like myself, among whom my femininity is never up for debate, mostly because we are all performing the same type of femininity. But when I enter spaces where elites roam, I feel more masculine because the performance of femininity for upper classes tends to have fragile undertones.Related From Vivala: Being Selfless Will Not Save You
At this party, I felt like my 5’3” body was ginormous. I felt like I had to apologize for taking up too much space. I did not know how to pick up the hors d'oeuvre nor did I fully know what anything was, except for an assortment of chips and some shrimp.
I am the furthest thing from fragile, and I felt embarrassed. But I knew that this was because femininity is contextual. Being from a very different class status, my femininity was never fragile because fragility is not afforded to those of us without access to delicacies or delicate things.
My femininity takes up space. I walk into a room and fling my purse in one direction and my coat in another. I am boisterous. I am railing against the dismissal of women because sexism in lower socioeconomic contexts is more overt. To accept that women get paid less is the discreet sexism of the elites. Women from my context resist this by making ourselves visible, and forcing you to acknowledge our humanity.
My femininity says, “I am a Queen.” There is an element of subverting the alpha male narrative, by demanding the role of queen through the ways we move and the ways we dress. When a lot of feminine WOC from a similar class share space, we are bossy, and we are loud, and it is electrifying. When I was in L.A. a few weeks ago, I found myself with a group of Latinas who understood this type of femininity. We ended up calling ourselves the “Mami Collective” because we are like-minded Latinas with a kick-ass way of being feminine that is intertwined with our survival: Diosa shit.
My femininity is self-affirmation. I'm performing a level of self-love that
is typically unwelcome for women. There’s a difference in the femininity of the
elites that is more about making other people feel inferior, whether
intentional or not, through uninviting customs and practices that are designed
to keep the elites elite, and everyone else out.
As the party progressed, I paid close attention to the ways in which I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. I ended up breaking a glass of champagne because (in case I haven't made myself clear) I was NOT the classiest woman in the room. Then I remembered, to be classy is to show class, the good kind of class. So I decided to eat the hors d'oeuvre with my fingers because the classy women from my neighborhood eat tortillas, pupusas, quesillos, and tostones with our hands, and to acquiesce to the biggest wallet in the room is beneath me.